Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Wikipedia: Rogue editor EssJay resigns in shame

Wikipedia: Rogue editor EssJay resigns in shame
By Alex Zaharov-Reutt
Thursday, 08 March 2007

The scandal over EssJay, or Ryan Jordan’s credentials as a ‘professor with doctorates in religion’ has resigned, after it emerged he was really a 24-year-old Kentucky college dropout.

When news of the latest Wikipedia scandal broke, concerning EssJay, or rather Ryan Jordan, who had claimed to be a professor teaching at a private university, and was uncovered by “The New Yorker” last week, Wikipedia’s founder, Jimmy Wales, professed not to be worried about it and appeared to sweep the whole episode under the carpet.

Unfortunately for Jimmy Wales and Ryan Jordan, the Internet community was horrified that yet again, Wikipedia was in the news for all the wrong reasons.

EssJay, or Jordan, had worked on over 16,000 Wikipedia entries, either writing or editing them, and had been invited by Jimmy Wales to work on the commercial Wikia project which sells Wiki style websites to anyone that wants them.

Jimmy Wales has claimed that he has been in a remote part of India since the scandal erupted, and despite initially being quoted that he wasn’t worried about EssJay’s use of a pseudonym, he has since decided to ask Ryan Jordon to resign his ‘positions of trust’ over his nonexistent degrees on March 3 from both Wikipedia and Wikia.

On March 4, Jordan agreed to resign, and offered his personal apology not only to Wales, but to the entire Wikipedia community.

Jordan had claimed he fabricated his persona to avoid cyberstalking from users whose entries he had edited, and claimed that he was shocked that the Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Stacy Schiff from the New Yorker would publish the information from Jordan’s user page which now claims that Jordan has ‘retired’. Jordan said that “It was, quite honestly, my impression that it was well known that I was not who I claimed to be, and that in the absence of any confirmation, no respectable publication would print it.”

Unfortunately for Jordan, Wikipedia gives the impression that what it prints is correct, even though it has been shown to have published incorrect information which has needed to be corrected on a range of occasions. Because Wikipedia is built, according to Wales, “(among other things) twin pillars of trust and tolerance”, it is hardly surprising that Schiff would assume that an entry on a Wikipedia administrator would be completely truthful.

On the page, linked above, on Wikipedia relating to the resignation of Ryan Jordan, Wikipedia states that: “Wikipedia allows its users to be anonymous, by creating usernames as pseudonyms. However, it is considered unethical to purposely misrepresent oneself to the media, or to use unjustified claims to qualifications to support arguments with other contributors”.

It is understood that Wikipedia is now checking the credentials of all its editors and other ‘official’ Wikipedia staff to ensure that a similar scandal will not eventuate in the future.

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